Introducing: Mauke Moments

Originally posted on Pacific Trade Invest Australia – view it on their site here

In September 2008, Andrew and June Hosking left their jobs in Rarotonga to return to family land on Mauke, an outer island in the Cook Islands archipelago.

Mauke is a raised coral atoll, 18 kilometres in circumference, with a central volcanic plateau and a population of approximately 280.

The Hoskings settled on the southern end, away from the residential area, to build a sustainable lifestyle in close collaboration with the spoils of nature.

They slowly upgraded their tarpaulin shelter to an eco-home with composting toilets, rainwater harvesting, grey-water recycling, solar power, wheelchair accessibility and passive cooling functions.

After some ingenuity to overcome the atoll’s topsoil challenges, the couple began planting fresh fruit and experimenting with creating jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces, vinegars and preserves.

Little did they know this was the start of Mauke Moments, a local condiments business firmly focused on sustainability, community and circular economy.

“Although we live primarily off the land, there seems no way to live totally without money today. So, we started thinking about how we might help our tiny economy bring in money from outside of Mauke,” said June.

“Shelvana of Mauke’s Makatea General Store always really enjoyed the homemade preserves I gave her and thought they would sell well. She kindly sells local product without commission, as a community service, so with the encouragement of friends and family, Mauke Moments was born.”

Mauke Moments quickly enlisted the enthusiastic support of the local and wider national community to develop local trade deals and jar-recycling schemes.

“After selling for a while in Mauke, I was asked to send some product to Rarotonga for a Trade Day. I asked how much they wanted. The lovely Metua Robati, who was at the Business Trade Investment Board (BTIB), said to send as much as I could because she would find a buyer. She did exactly that. We struck up a relationship with Prime Foods in Rarotonga, followed by others. In 2019, Beluga Cafe on Rarotonga started a regular order,” said June.

“In our first year we sent monthly crates of product, which were collected from the wharf, stored and distributed as people ordered. The crate was then sent back filled with empty jars. It is not an easy task, but everyone pitches in. People in Rarotonga save jars for us, and we clean and sterilise them. We have a wonderful Te Ipukarea Society, which are a major drop-off point for jars since early on. BTIB and Prime Foods also collect them. As time has gone on, people know what sizes we need and we work together to recycle, reduce import emissions, and avoid using up scarce landfill space.”

Mauke Moments has become a local favourite, popular with visitors as gifts for loved ones at home.

Since the start of COVID-19 and the corresponding closed borders and severe drops in international tourists, Mauke Moments made the move to go digital.

This year, the family team behind Mauke Moments have developed their own website and listed with Island Craft, a renowned Cook Islands retailer with ecommerce platform.

Andrew and June attended PTI Australia’s Social Media Masterclass in July and said it gave them useful tips on how to connect with a virtual audience.

“Since the advent of COVID, we’ve realised the importance of digital channels and have really valued the opportunity to upskill through workshops like those PTI Australia have provided. We’ve gone a step further and listed with Rarotonga-based Island Craft, who help small businesses sell online. They’ve taken on the task of storing product and looking after online orders for a small cut. We are grateful to have a few overseas orders come in through the platform.

“We are blessed to have such good-hearted people around us who believe in what we do. We honestly never imagined Mauke Moments would get to this point. We initially set out to simply live in harmony with nature and put into practice systems that work towards natural cycles. The fact we have been able to incorporate a small business model into this lifestyle continues to blow us away. If it wasn’t for the people we have met along the way, from the local island store, to the BTIB, to those providing free resources, to those saving their jars and, of course, those buying our yummy treats, Mauke Moments would not be what it is today.”